May 21, 2001


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Obsession, by Dev Anand!

Censor, for the indefatigable Dev Anand, is now history.

Dev Anand Hit or miss, he has always believed in moving on, charged with life and work. His work.

Even as his film, Beauty Queen, has been put on the backburner, he is now all set to make Love At Times Square, a triangular love story set in New York. The film stars three youngsters.

It has been 57 years since Dev Anand was launched by whiz filmmaker-lyricist Pyarelal Santoshi (father of today's hotshot Rajkumar Santoshi) in Hum Ek Hain (1944). In 1950, he launched the famous Navketan banner with Afsar, directed by his established elder brother Chetan.

Later, Navketan became a launchpad for talents as assorted as Vijay Anand (Nau Do Gyarah), Guru Dutt (Baazi), Zeenat Aman (Hare Rama Hare Krishna), Tina Munim (Des Pardes), Jaidev (Hum Dono), Sahir (Baazi), Neeraj (Prem Pujari), Jackie Shroff (Swami Dada as the villain's henchman), Tabu (Hum Naujawan), Abhijeet (Anand Aur Anand), numerous technicians and innumerable lesser known names.

The Dev Anand roster of home productions also include Taxi Driver, Kala Pani, Kaala Bazaar, Tere Ghar Ke Saamne, Guide and Jewel Thief. His other films include Insaniyat, Munimji, Jaal, Paying Guest, Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai, Asli Naqli, Solva Saal, C I D, Amar Deep, Johny Mera Naam and Tere Mere Sapne.

Dr Rajiv Vijayakar met the thespian on a late, lazy afternoon, sitting amidst a pile of files and assorted newspapers:

What is Love At Times Square all about?

It is an Indian love story set around the famous Times Square, New York. It starts on one New Year's Eve and ends the next, exactly after a year.

There are two boys, one from India, the other from the US. The girl is from America. I play her father. Heenee, my discovery in Censor, plays the girl. The boys will be finalised shortly.

Lucky Ali will score the music for this film. We've had some sittings. He's young, fresh and his music sounds just right for this kind of subject. I have heard his songs and know him well. We will record three songs in London in July.

You shot in the Times Square this New Year's Eve without finalising the cast?

Yes. I shot the wonderful New Year's Eve celebrations -- it is a vital part of my film. A million people were there. It was unforgettable.

The director at work Why don't you make a film with stars anymore?

You can make a film faster and move on to your next one. But if I am fired by an idea that needs stars, I might just do it.

You are always inspired by headlines and topical issues. Why a love story this time?

I was charged by the idea. When ideas hit me, I get obsessed. And I always write my own stories and scripts.

Also, I was in the Silicon Valley recently. India's big there and getting bigger! The Indo-American relationship is at an all-time high.

I also won an award which was presented by Hillary Clinton; I was also honoured in San Francisco. That was when I went to Times Square in New York. That visit triggered off something that happened 30 or 35 years ago.

I don't want to reveal what it was, but my film took off from there.

What about the film Beauty Queen which you had announced along with Censor?

It's on hold. I need to launch one face in a million as the Beauty Queen. She is supposed to be Miss India. So she has to be one of the best looking girls in this country. The search is on.

What is your reaction to the feedback on Censor?

Those who saw it said it was good. You see, the issues that the film tackled were those the common man could not identify with. He identifies with immediate concerns like roti, kapda, makaan, his family -- wife and children.

I dealt with an issue that concerns the film industry. And when I'm gone, they will appreciate the fact that Dev Anand made every kind of film with the same passion, from ideas that came out of his head.

Does it not hurt when people reject a film that you make with so much passion?

When I set out to make a film, I think of the commercial angle.

If I know it will be a commercial miss -- like with a subject like Censor, I ask myself, "Dev, are you prepared for commercial failure?"

That decides whether I go on. Most of the time, I do go on!

Dev Anand What matters is that you enjoy your work. When you enjoy your work, you look forward to each new day with excitement. It's so exciting to make a film. And excitement is a sign of youth.

Filmmaking is an expensive hobby today. An average film costs Rs 100 million. If success and failure are the only concerns that motivate you, you can never make films.

Besides the reasons for my films failing are many. They may even be technically shoddy on occasion. But no one can doubt my sincerity and honesty.

What is happening to your son's film Master?

It is releasing soon, perhaps in June. It's totally his baby and I am not creatively involved at all.

And what of your brother, Vijay Anand's film, Jaana Na Dil Se Door?

That, too, might release this year. Vijay is doing an emotional story of a retired professor.

It's 57 years since you alighted at Bombay's Victoria Terminus station. What do you feel now?

A tremendous surge of optimism. Tomorrow is a bright ray of optimism. Yesterday is dead. Today is life.

Why be a pessimist? Why look back at the past? Life is a process of going forward. When I came here, I had only two things to help me -- my education and my tremendous self-confidence.

As someone who's been around so long, what would you call the golden period of Hindi cinema?

Every period is a golden period. Even today. Films, music and life change with time.

You have been branded a non-actor. Doesn't it sting?

That's because over here, one person in 1,000 makes an opinion. And the remaining 999 follow him.

In my opinion, a non-actor is the best actor.

Acting is about being yourself, unless you are essaying a biographical character. Look at theatre artistes. There are some exceptions, but the rest are not good actors at all.

Did you always want to become a writer-director?

Ultimately, cinema is the director's medium. But you need a certain level of experience to make films. Around the time of Guide, I thought I could. So I made Prem Pujari.

Why did you not film any more novels after Guide?

You see, people don't understand that Indian novels don't make gripping films.

We need two-and-a-half hours of entertainment. We need a climax to satisfy the audience, not a straight ending.

Dev Anand Guide tackled adultery. That was taboo. But the Hindi version clicked because we departed considerably from the novel and we designed a climax the book never had. The straight English adaptation was a disaster.

Why have you stopped acting in films other than your banner?

If someone comes up with an exciting project, I will do it!

Back to where we began. When will Love at Times Square, be released?

The shooting starts from July and will end in six months. The film will release early next year.

Do tell us what you think of this interview